Accelerating satellite production timelines improving market health

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WASHINGTON — Satellite makers are hopeful that higher frequency production rates will facilitate more innovation in the market, and fortify supply chains disrupted by the pandemic.

While higher volume and lower cost satellite production “doesn’t sound very sexy,” York Space Systems CEO Dirk Wallinger told the Satellite 2022 trade show March 22 in Washington D.C. that it also accelerates technology cycles in the industry.

“Consistent demand,” versus more periodic satellite orders, also supports relationships with suppliers that will bolster supply chains, Wallinger added.

A shortage of parts and skilled workers resulting from the pandemic have delayed multiple satellite projects.

Rising demand for software-defined satellites is helping manufacturers standardize common architecture to bring down costs and accelerate production times.

According to data from research firm Euroconsult, fully software-defined satellite platforms from Airbus, Thales Alenia Space, Astranis and other manufacturers accounted for more than half of high throughput satellite (HTS) orders for geostationary orbit (GEO) over 2019-2021. 

In 2021, software-defined satellites made up more than 80% of GEO HTS orders, Euroconsult says.

Alongside giving operators more flexibility to adapt to changing markets, Thales Alenia Space CEO Hervé Derrey said software-defined payloads also help simplify decision-making processes to accelerate project timelines.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning advances are also helping manufacturers pull more data from software-defined satellites to learn more about ways to increase operational lives, beyond how much fuel is onboard, added Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of commercial civil space at Lockheed Martin.